The Oklahoma State Senate Wednesday approved a $6.6 billion general appropriations bill that included historic investments in public schools and state colleges and universities.
Senate Bill 80XX passed on a 31-15 vote.
The measure, which includes a $3,000 across-the-board pay raise for public school teachers and a $130 million funding increase for higher education, is part of a budget and tax cut agreement reached between Senate and House leaders last week.
“This is a great day for education in Oklahoma,” Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan said. “Investing in our public school classrooms and colleges and universities will create a better tomorrow for Oklahoma’s children.”
“Oklahoma’s teachers are among the best trained and most qualified in the nation. This salary increase will make our state more competitive as we work to keep our best and brightest teachers in Oklahoma classrooms,” said Senator Stratton Taylor, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education. “I am proud to have worked on a meaningful salary increase for our teachers.”
The $3,000 pay raise for teachers was the lynch pin of the education agenda announced by Senate Democrats in January. It is more than double what other state leaders originally proposed for teachers. The raise will be funded outside the State Aid Formula and will move Oklahoma teachers’ salaries significantly closer to the regional average.
The $130 million increase in higher education funding will keep tuition increases at state colleges and universities to a minimum.
“Oklahoma’s college students and their parents are also big winners today. This budget will help keep a college education within the financial grasp of hard-working middle class families in our state,” Morgan said.
The Senate Leader said it was the unwavering commitment by Democrats in both the House and Senate that made the $3,000 pay raise for teachers and a $130 million increase for higher education possible.
“Education is the key to our state’s future. We began this journey in January and there have certainly been bumps in the road, but by refusing to deviate from the course, we have claimed a great victory today for all of Oklahoma,” Morgan said.
Other highlights of SB 80XX include:
Funds necessary to provide a 5-percent pay raise for state employees starting October 1;
Funds necessary to bring the pay of state law enforcement officers up the regional average;
A $47 million increase in funding for the Department of Corrections;
And Medicaid reimbursement increases for hospitals and nursing homes.
The measure now goes to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for consideration.